The Curious Case of Online Entertainment Content Sharing

Scenario 1

We are increasingly witnessing cases where marketers of global brands are striving hard in producing digital content and nudging the ‘dot-commers’ to share the content free of cost via social sharing platforms. The extent of sharing gives a marketer an indication on how successful the campaign was. Most of the top global brands resort to such “extravagant missions” with a view to build brand’s image with its current set of customers, solicit their continued loyalty, and to acquire to new set of fans. In some cases, marketers in addition to producing digital content to be shared freely also end up recruiting key influencers to disseminate content.

Remember, the above mentioned marketing initiative costs a marketer dearly and in the process also generates gainful employment across the value chain involved in digital content sharing. And yes, did I say that content sharing in this form is legal and in fact is encouraged.

Scenario 2

We also witness cases where marketers in the Entertainment Industry are screaming out loud to stop digital content sharing via p2p sharing networks. In addition to this, they have termed the act of content sharing as piracy.

This is not a case of comparing apples to oranges, if one is prepared to look into the scenarios from the point of view of content sharing. Scenario 1 is clearly a push model – where the effort to push digital content via end-users to end-users originates from the brand. Scenario 2 is a pull model – where the effort to push digital content via end-users to end-users originates from end-users themselves. It is the absence of the marketer’s role in Scenario 2 that makes content sharing in such an environment to be perceived as illegal/stealing/piracy. If marketers in the entertainment industry start to perceive content sharing from the same lens as they see content sharing in Scenario 1, the answers to “illegal content sharing” are quite evident.

Entertainment-led content sharing on p2p sharing networks currently lacks legal backing of the entertainment industry. Rather than estranging the key entertainment content contributors/up-loaders/distributors in p2p sharing networks, if the marketers of the entertainment industry are to acknowledge them as key influencers, it will be a big leap forward in legitimizing the online entertainment content sharing.

To substantiate this claim further, in music industry, it is of paramount importance that aftermath of downloading music via p2p sharing networks is explored at greater depths to identify the intent of the act. Not all instances of downloading music via p2p sharing networks are a threat to marketplace. For instance, if one were to classify intent of downloading entertainment content into the categories1, (a) substitute to a purchase (b) to sample then purchase (c) to access otherwise unavailable content (d) to access content that is not copyrighted. Barring the first category, none of the other holds any threat to marketplace. If the intent of the users are to be classified into (b), (c), (d), it offers immense opportunities for marketers to partner with content contributors/up-loaders/distributors in p2p sharing networks to reach out to their end-users.

Over the years, we have many instances, where fans have provided unconditional support (emotional as well as financial) when they have viewed an artist’s or a group’s performance as art or entertainment and not merely as a commodity that can be bought in a marketplace. To give a perspective on this, take the recent example where the fans of a popular South Indian Actor decided to bail him out of a situation of financial distress by sending him cheques and demand drafts for values that were way higher than what it would have cost them to watch his most recent movie “legitimately”.

Long story short, the culture of content sharing needs to be understood better as this is expected to impact the commercialization of content in entertainment industry in the coming years2.

I encourage you to take the poll mentioned below the References section. This will immensely help me in formulating my rationale on this topic. Thanks.


1 Lessig, L. (2004) Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock
Down Culture and Control Creativity, Penguin Press, New York

2 Ian Condry Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, Forthcoming, Sept. 2004, Intl Jrnl Cultural Studies, Vol. 7, Issue 3



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